VTB United League
Lokomotiv-Kuban defeated Khimki on the road, 83-76, in Game 2 of the playoff semifinals. After a closely contested 1st quarter, Kuban pulled away by 14 in the second period. Khimki put together an impressive comeback in the final quarter, but Loko emerged victorious, bailed out by a clutch Derrick Brown three. The Red-Greens even the series and steal home court advantage. Game 3 will be played on Monday in Krasnodar.
Khimki squeaked out a win in Game 1 and hoped to make it 2-0 with a win on Friday night. Lokomotiv, of course, had other plans. A loss would have put Krasnodar on the brink of elimination, giving the Red-Greens plenty of motivation. The return of Anthony Randolph was a good sign for the Lokomotiv fans, while the Khimki faithful got some bad new prior to tip-off: both James Augustine and Paul Davis were unavailable.
Game 1 was decided by a single point and the 1st quarter of Game 2 promised more of the same. The competition was fierce from the opening tip with neither team able to pull away. Khimki ended the quarter in brilliant fashion, going the length of the court in a couple seconds to score two points and pull within one, 20-19.
The Yellow-Blues did not start the second period quite as well. Khimki gave up an 8-1 run, unable to stop Lokomotiv in the paint, while Tyrese Rice suffered a nasty collision with a teammate. The Moscow Region star stayed in the game, but Lokomotiv continued to pull away. The home team struggled from the perimeter and got into foul trouble and the Railwaymen took advantage. Richard Hendrix and Krunoslav Simon each scored 14 points in the first half, giving Loko a 14-point advantage, 48-34.
After switching sides, the pace of the game started to slow. The physicality went up, while the scoring dropped. Moscow Region continued to shoot poorly from the perimeter and a weakened frontcourt posed little threat to the Railwaymen. While Khimk cut the deficit to 12 points late in the 3rd, they still had a lot of work to do in the final period (63-51).
The momentum in the game shifted dramatically in the final quarter. Khimki finally found its touch from beyond the arc and Ruslan Pateev started to get his way in the paint, bringing the sellout crowd alive. Sergei Bazarevich knew what he was talking about when he said Khimki had the most dangerous offense in Europe.
Lokomotiv had seen this happen before during the playoffs. After all, the Railwaymen nearly threw away a 28-point lead against UNICS in the quarterfinals. But Krasnodar escaped with a win against Kazan and also survived the Khimki onslaught on Friday night.
Petteri Koponen tied the score with less than two minutes left, 73-73. After both teams failed to score, the ball ended up in Derrick Brown's hands. He didn't hesitate, knocking down a three at the top of the key to give his team the lead back and shore up its shaky confidence. Sergey Monia tried to answer at the other end, but his shot was off the mark. Simon knocked down two free throws for Lokomotiv after a fast break foul, making it a five-point contest as Loko went on to win, 83-76.
The series is now even at 1-1 with Games 3 and 4 scheduled for Krasnodar.
Star of the Game
Derrick Brown. Brown scored a game-high 19 points on 8-11 shooting from the field. After Petteri Koponen brought Khimki all the way back from an 18-point deficit and tied the game at 73-73, Brown hit the biggest shot of the game, drilling a stepback three from the top of the key.
Stat of the Game
18 — Lokomotiv led by 18 midway through the 3rd quarter and by as much as 15 early in the 4th, before a furious Khimki comeback tied the score at 73-73 with two minutes left to play.
Khimki head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis:
— I want to congratulate Sergei Bazarevich and his team: they played well and deserved to win. I'm not going to talk about our troubles. Everyone saw that it's tough for us to play with one center. For the time being, we've lost both Paul Davis and James Augustine, our starting centers. Nonetheless, I'm happy that we caught our opponent. Unfortunately, we expended a lot of energy making up an 18-point deficit and didn't play very carefully in the final minutes. Lokomotiv got luckier, especially with Brown's decisive three in the final minute. That knocked us back a little and we rushed our answer. This result makes the series even more interesting. Right now, the most important thing is getting Davis back. I'd also like to get more production from the bench. I'm not happy with Claver and Sheleketo. We'll prepare and battle.
Lokomotiv-Kuban head coach Sergei Bazarevich:
— This is what the playoffs are all abougt! Give Khimki credit. They lost a player and were behind by a lot, but continued to battle and showed their competitiveness. That's why it's even nicer that after losing the momentum, we came together, pulled the game out and stole the home-court advantage.
Khimki: Ruslan Pateev — 18 points, seven rebounds; Petteri Koponen — 18 points; Sergey Monia — nine points, six rebounds; Tyrese Rice — seven points, eight assists.
Lokomotiv-Kuban: Derrick Brown — 19 points; Richard Hendrix — 18 points, four rebounds, three steals, three blocks; Krunoslav Simon — 18 points, five rebounds; Malcolm Delaney — 13 points.